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by Juan C. Dürsteler [message nº 28]

Connectivity is one of the main pillars on which the New Economy relies. Visualising it can be helpful in several fields.

In a broad sense we can think of connectivity as the possibility of being connected to other points (knots) of a network. From the technical standpoint, the network can be a telephonic one, the water supply, a company's Intranet or Internet itself, among others. But we can also think about the social network of our personal or professional contacts. In one form or another all of us are bound by a subtle network of very different relationships.

The fact that connectivity can be described in terms of the mathematics of graph theory brings the necessary muscle for the building of applications that are able to extract reliable and rigurous information about the relationships between the different knots that interconnect a network. A graph is a mathematical structure composed of knots (points) and arcs (connections) that relate one knot to the other(s). The graphical representation is straightforward and allows you to get a quick idea of the existing relations in a given domain.

For example, the concentration of lines connecting groups of knots can indicate that there is an intense exchange of information between them. This way, the visualisation of the connectivity can be helpful in order to take decisions and to detect patterns. 

Let's consider some examples:

NetMap  produces software that allows you to represent the relations within a database as graphs. It's worth taking a look to the example of fraud detection. The association between a building society and two estate agents that had multiple applications for a mortgage on a single house, was revealed when a thick triangle of connections between them was found in the graph of real estate transactions between the different actors that had multiple applications.

NetMap is also used in the detection of patterns of criminality by several Police departments. The Intelligence Service of Israel (Mossad) also uses it…By the way, after a survey about fraud by Ernst & Young (18 PDF pages), 65% of the organisations that answered the questionnaire had suffered some form of fraud during 2000.

Another application of graph theory is the understanding of the relations between the employees of a company. Plotting the connectivity graph of the different components of a company (business units, departments, teams and people) based on the communication relationships between them ( with whom you collaborate more frequently, who you ask for information from, whom you give it to,…) you can detect problems in the relationship between departments or communication channels that can be empowered.

The strategic alliances between companies can be also represented with graphs, This is the case of Orgnet.com. Of especial interest is the interactive representation. In it you can move a particular knot, let's say Cisco Systems and see how it drags its associated companies.

The companies that supply energy and communications have been using these techniques for a long time in order to control their main knot. The goal is to know which ones are most saturated, which channels are under loaded and where to derive the traffic in case of overload.

The subtle threads that bind us to multiple entities, people and institutions are placed nowadays in cyberspace. You only have to look with the appropriate magnifier to reveal them.

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